Carty the hero as Connacht grab stunning late win over Wasps

The Connacht out-half won it with the last kick of the game.

Connacht 20

Wasps 18

Murray Kinsella reports from the Sportsground

JACK CARTY WAS the Connacht hero as Pat Lam’s side grabbed a last-gasp win over Wasps to re-ignite their quest for a Champions Cup quarter-final.

A last-minute try from the maul by debutant back row Naulia Dawai drew the westerners level at 18-18 but left Carty faced with a hugely difficult conversion from close to the right-hand touchline.

Jack Carty celebrates with try scorer Naulia Dawai after the game Jack Carty and try-scorer Naulia Dawai. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Carty had been criticised over his place kicking this week, following two misses in last weekend’s defeat away to Wasps, but he held his nerve emphatically to slam over a brilliant game-winning conversion and send the Sportsground into ecstasy.

The vocal crowd of 8,090 had been heading for disappointment before that late play from Lam’s side, having watched Connacht waste a number of attacking chances in the second half.

An excellent try for Danie Poolman had left Connacht 13-7 to the good at the half-time break, but Wasps responded well in the second half without ever cutting the home side to shreds in defence.

This stunning win sees Connacht move into a three-way tie at the top of Pool 2 with two fixtures remaining, home to Zebre and away to Toulouse. Wasps and Toulouse are also both on 13 match points after four rounds.

Lam and his players will now have some confidence that they can go on and seal a quarter-final place.

Wasps started this evening’s contest very poorly, with a collapsed scrum following Ashley Johnson’s knock-on under the kick-off, but Carty was wide to the left with his early penalty attempt.

The Connacht out-half found his range eight minutes in, however, slotting a penalty from 42 metres out after lock Quinn Roux got over the ball with impressive speed and agility.

But Wasps’ attacking threat came to the fore soon after, as Jimmy Gopperth’s subtle delayed pass freed Joe Launchbury to gallop through the Connacht defence. Two rapid recycles later, Thomas Young thundered forward, offloading beautifully inside to Nathan Hughes.

Joe Simpson scores a try Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The number eight slipped Tiernan O’Halloran’s tackle but Kieran Marmion did superbly to halt him a metre short, only for the supporting scrum-half Joe Simpson to scoop the ball while moving at speed and dive over to score, with Gopperth converting for a 7-3 lead.

Connacht invited more pressure when Niyi Adeolokun dropped Bundee Aki’s offload soon after, with Hughes dinking the ball ahead, only for his chasing team-mates to go off their feet after O’Halloran got back to gather.

A huge hit by Johnson on Aki saw the pressure mount even further, and led to Wasps camping themselves on the Connacht tryline. Johnson was held up over the tryline by Finlay Bealham and Eoin McKeon, before O’Halloran went to the bin for failing to roll away.

It looked like Connacht might crack, but captain John Muldoon made a stunning turnover on their tryline to lift the siege.

Big players started to make big plays. Ultan Dillane levelled Kurtley Beale, Matt Healy made a sublime offload from the ground, Aki sprinted 70 metres upfield and boshed Josh Bassett into the ground.

And with those big plays, momentum shifted. Connacht welcomed O’Halloran back without having conceded a point in those 10 minutes, and finished the half brilliantly.

They were held up over the tryline with one maul surge, before Wasps won a scrum against the head five metres from the tryline, but Lam’s men weren’t to be denied.

They launched a clever starter play from a lineout, dummying a maul, then dummying a peel down the blindside, only for Adeolokun to take a switch line off hooker Tom McCartney on the openside.

Connacht players celebrate Danie Poolman's try Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

A quick recycle and Carty weighted a diagonal kick perfectly, bouncing it into the left corner and over the tryline for Danie Poolman – on as a blood injury replacement for Healy – to collect and dot down with his first touch.

Carty converted wonderfully from wide left for a 13-7 half-time lead.

Connacht had several spells of promising possession in the third quarter, with Aki running over the top of Beale at one stage and Marmion continuing to snipe well, but they were wasteful.

Lam’s men were twice stripped in contact in the Wasps’ 22, while man of the match Launchbury won an excellent turnover after a Carty break. That meant that though Wasps were under pressure, they did not concede in a purple patch for Connacht.

Gopperth drew them to 13-10 with a penalty in the 54th minute, though he missed off the tee soon after a controversial incident.

Adeolokun had gathered a kick in the backfield and ran it back at Wasps, only for tighthead prop Jake Cooper-Woolley to clumsily lurch into his tackle and connect his head with Adeolokun’s.

Both players required treatment on the pitch after the sickening collision, with Cooper-Woolley forced off for a HIA. Meanwhile, Garces undertook an extensive TMO review of the incident and decided it required no punishment.

Scrum Connacht, but Marty Moore made an instant impact as Cooper-Woolley’s replacement, helping Wasps to a penalty, which Gopperth missed as the ball rebounded off the left post.

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Tiernan O'Halloran on the attack Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

With the likes of replacement back row Guy Thompson making an impression on the ball, Wasps’ threat grew heading into the closing quarter, with Gopperth levelling the scores with a routine penalty after Connacht went off their feet in the ruck.

They pulled back in front with a 73rd-minute try, the scrum again demolishing Connacht just a few metres out from their tryline, before Simpson broke down the left-hand side and fired a skip pass to Bassett, who beat the despairing Adeolokun.

Gopperth’s conversion was wide, and Wasps weren’t in the clear by any means.

Though Connacht’s lineout failed them heading into the final five minutes, a blockdown from Fijian flanker Dawai forced a panicked knock-on from Wasps and the westerners had a final scrum platform to attack from.

Lam’s men initially stretched the Wasps’ defence, but once again they were turned over in the 22 and that looked like that.

But one final turnover penalty from Adeolokun allowed Connacht to kick into the right corner and virtually the entire team joined in a huge maul that allowed Dawai to touch down.

Then hush descended as Carty stood over the kick.

Bedlam followed as the Connacht out-half showed his composure, sparking a pitch invasion and a wave of confidence that the province can go on to achieve another huge milestone this season.

Connacht scorers:

Tries: Danie Poolman, Naulia Dawai

Conversions: Jack Carty [2 from 2]

Penalties: Jack Carty [2 from 3]

Wasps scorers:

Tries: Joe Simpson, Josh Bassett

Conversions: Jimmy Gopperth [1 from 2]

Penalties: Jimmy Gopperth [2 from 3]

CONNACHT: Tiernan O’Halloran (yellow card ’25); Niyi Adeolokun, Rory Parata, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy (blood bin – Danie Poolman ’31 to ’40); Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion (Caolin Blade ’74); Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney (Dave Heffernan ’64), Finlay Bealham (Conor Carey ’62 – reversal ’70); Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux (Lewis Stevenson ’72); Eoin McKeon (Sean O’Brien ’54), Nepia Fox-Matamua (Naulia Dawai ’74), John Muldoon (captain).

Replacements not used: JP Cooney.

WASPS: Rob Miller; Christian Wade, Brendan Macken (Alapati Leiua ’66), Kurtley Beale (Frank Halai ’75), Josh Bassett; Jimmy Gopperth, Joe Simpson (Dan Robson ’54); Matt Mullan, Tommy Taylor, Jake Cooper-Woolley (Marty Moore ’59); Joe Launchbury (captain), Kearnan Myall; Ashley Johnson (Alex Rieder ’72), Thomas Young, Nathan Hughes (Guy Thompson ’64).

Replacements not used: Tom Bristow, James Gaskell.

Referee: Jerome Garces [FFR].

Attendance: 8,090.

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Murray Kinsella

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